Did Jesus Declare All Foods Clean?


Let's compare two translations of scripture:

Mark 7:18 (NIV) "Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him 'unclean'?
Mark 7:19 (NIV) For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")

Mark 7:18 (KJV) And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
Mark 7:19 (KJV) Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

Those two translations do not say the same thing. The King James does not have Jesus declaring all foods clean, in the biblical sense. It is saying all food passes through the body and is expelled. Jesus is not removing the prohibition on eating unclean animals. Modern translations like the NIV that say Jesus declared all foods clean are in error, and are intentionally mistranslated in order to justify eating the biblically unclean animals. Note the following:

Dan 1:8  (KJV) But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

This begs the question, was Daniel sadly mistaken in believing he would be defiled by the King's unclean food and drink?

If one takes the position that Jesus said no food was unclean, that everything could be eaten without discrimination, then why did Daniel believe otherwise? There seems to be a problem of contradiction between these two passages.

Noah was aware of a distinction God had made between clean and unclean animals, even before the flood (Gen. 7:2), long before the time of the Mosaic food laws of Leviticus chapter 11, which specifies animals that are unclean, an abomination, and are not to be eaten. The Hebrew word translated as unclean, from Strong's concordance:

H2931. tame', taw-may'; from H2930; foul in a relig. sense:--defiled, + infamous, polluted (-tion), unclean.

H2930. tame', taw-may'; a prim. root; to be foul, espec. in a cerem. or mor. sense (contaminated):--defile (self), pollute (self), be (make, make self, pronounce) unclean, X utterly.

Note that "unclean" animals are polluted, contaminated and foul. That the unclean animals were taken into the ark by twos, and the clean animals by sevens, shows that Noah ate no unclean animals after the flood, nor used them for sacrifices (Gen 8:20), because that would have meant automatic extinction for the unclean animals. When after the flood, Noah was given permission to eat animals (Gen 9:3), it was in this context of the clean and unclean, which Noah was already aware of, it did not permit him to eat the unclean animals.

Because the differences in clean and unclean animals were made known to Noah before the flood, before permission to eat animals was given to humanity, it was something known and obeyed even by Abraham:

Gen 26:5  Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.

So Daniel, in Daniel chapter 1, was on very firm ground in his insistence that the King's unclean food would defile him, because from the time of Noah, to Abraham, and through the time of Moses, God had instructed his people to know the difference in clean and unclean food, and to observe the prohibitions against the unclean. Note that Daniel's obedience, with respect to not eating the unclean foods of the king, was handsomely rewarded with good health:

Dan 1:15  And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat.

In addition to the prohibitions in Leviticus 11, Daniel also had this earlier example in Exodus to guide him in keeping his health through his diet:

Exo 15:26  And said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the LORD thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the LORD that healeth thee.

While not explicitly stated there, I think it is reasonable to assume that the diseases spoken of would have been the result of not heeding the distinctions made by God in clean and unclean animals. In addition there was a spiritual benefit for Daniel in refraining from eating the King's unclean food:

Dan 1:16  Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.
Dan 1:17  As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

Dan 1:20  And in all matters of wisdom and understanding, that the king inquired of them, he found them ten times better than all the magicians and astrologers that were in all his realm.

Because Daniel would not eat the unclean food, or drink alcoholic wine, he was blessed with spiritual knowledge and wisdom. Now I ask, would Daniel still have been blessed by God if he had eaten the king's unclean food or drank his wine? I think not, and I see no reason that this principle would not apply to us even today. So now back to Jesus in the New Testament.

Question: In Mark chapter 7, did Jesus declare all animals clean, thereby declaring a change in the status of previously unclean animals, removing the prohibition against eating them?
My answer:
The unclean animals were, and still are, unclean in the same manner that Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Daniel understood them to be from God. Nothing Jesus said changed the status of unclean animals. He did not repeal the laws prohibiting the eating of unclean animals, and unclean animals are never given the status of being fit for food.

Question: Were previously unclean animals now fit for sacrifices in the temple as a result of Jesus' declaration?
My Answer: No, they never were fit for sacrifice, and nothing Jesus said changed that.

Question: If one maintains that Jesus changed the status of previously unclean animals, and removed God's restrictions against eating them, then I ask you, did a change also physically occur in the animals themselves, such that they were now fit for consumption, when previously they were an abomination?
My answer:
The unclean animals did not change in any respect as a result of Jesus' teaching. They were a health hazard in the Old Testament, polluted and intrinsically unfit for human consumption, and they remain so today.

Question: Then what exactly did Jesus say? What was He teaching? Look at the parallel passage in Matthew:

The scribes and Pharisees condemn Jesus' disciples for not washing their hands

Mat 15:1  Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying,
Mat 15:2  Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
Mat 15:3  But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?

Jesus condemns the traditions of the scribes and Pharisees

Mat 15:4  For God commanded, saying, Honour thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.
Mat 15:5  But ye say, Whosoever shall say to his father or his mother, It is a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;
Mat 15:6  And honour not his father or his mother, he shall be free. Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition.
Mat 15:7  Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying,
Mat 15:8  This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.
Mat 15:9  But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

Jesus again condemns the scribes and Pharisees tradition with a parable

 Mat 15:10  And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand:
 Mat 15:11  Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
 Mat 15:12  Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?
 Mat 15:13  But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.
 Mat 15:14  Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.

Jesus explains the parable

 Mat 15:15  Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable.
 Mat 15:16  And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding?
 Mat 15:17  Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
 Mat 15:18  But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.
 Mat 15:19  For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:
 Mat 15:20  These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Question: Did Jesus conclude that the biblically unclean foods were now clean?
My Answer: No, He concluded that a man is not defiled by unwashed hands. Repeal of the biblically unclean foods prohibitions was simply not under discussion in the context of the passage. If that were what the scribes and Pharisees had understood Him to say, they would have gone berserk in their condemnation of Jesus, and would have charged him with heresy in abandoning or contradicting the dietary restrictions of God, but this they never did, because Jesus never did say or imply any such thing.

Question: So according to Jesus, does food defile a man?
My Answer: No, it does not, not in the sense Jesus was speaking about.

Question: In the context of Jesus' teaching, what was meant by "defileth" in verse 11?
My Answer: The scribes and Pharisees were condemning the disciples for not washing their hands, implying that they were therefore defiled or unclean, because Jesus' disciples did not follow the traditions of the elders. Jesus replied by rebuking the scribes and Pharisees, saying that nothing a man puts into his mouth defiles the heart, defilement which He defined as "evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, [and] blasphemies". The scribes and Pharisees, and Jesus, were speaking on two entirely different levels, the scribes and Pharisees were concerned with the cleanliness of the hands, and Jesus the cleanliness of the heart. Jesus was saying that nothing a man eats results in an unclean (sinful) heart, rather what a man says and does reveals the state of his heart. In other words, there is no direct cause and effect between any food and "evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, [and] blasphemies", so neither does unwashed hands produce these things either. Yet Jesus was not saying that the biblically unclean foods were now changed, and now healthy to eat, nor was He removing the biblical prohibitions against eating them. They were and still are polluted, contaminated and foul, hazards to your health.

Question: So why is Mark 7:19 worded the way it is in the NIV and some other Bibles? (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.")
My Answer: We need to look also at the King James, which reads differently:

Mark 7:18  (KJV) And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
Mark 7:19 (KJV) Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats?

From what I have read, it is clear in the Greek (I don't know Greek) that the words "purging all meats" were not said by Jesus, but by the author of Mark as a comment, and that is why some Bibles that say "In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean" have it in black and not red. They take the "And he saith unto them" from verse 18 and combine it with "purging all meats" from the end of verse 19, and this results in the statement in question in Mark 7:19 of the NIV and other bibles.

Note the word "purging" in verse 19. The word translated as purging has more than one meaning, and the differences are important. Jesus is teaching that it is significant that food passes through the body and ends up in the toilet. This observation would not be important if all food was intrinsically "clean" in the biblical sense before being eaten, since it would be clean going in, so to speak. Jesus is making the point that all food (clean or unclean) passes through the body, including that defiled by unwashed hands, and that it is not retained such that it corrupts a man's heart, causing him to sin. The food a man eats does not in itself cause a man to commit sin. All food is quickly expelled from the body, and this is what the comment at the end of verse 19 is observing, not that Jesus removed the prohibitions against biblically unclean foods.

In context, I suggest that this is the correct way to understand that passage:

Mark 7:18  And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him;
Mark 7:19  Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the toilet, (expelling all foods [from the body.])?

So the error in some Bibles in Mark 7:19, I propose, is that of intentional misinterpretation of the following word:

G2511. katharizo, kath-ar-id'-zo; from G2513; to cleanse (lit. or fig.):--(make) clean (-se), purge, purify.

If it is interpreted as "cleansing" the food, it results in all foods being cleansed in the process of consumption. If it is interpreted as "purging", in the sense of all foods being expelled from the body, it means something quite different. I suggest that the latter is the correct interpretation. Here is Merriam Webster's dictionary definition of "purge", which supports this conclusion:

Inflected Form(s): purged; purg·ing
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French purgier, from Latin purigare, purgare to purify, purge, from purus pure + -igare (akin to agere to drive, do) -- more at ACT
Date: 14th century
transitive senses
1 a : to clear of guilt b : to free from moral or ceremonial defilement
2 a : to cause evacuation from (as the bowels) b (1) : to make free of something unwanted <purge a manhole of gas> <purge yourself of fear> (2) : to free (as a boiler) of sediment or relieve (as a steam pipe) of trapped air by bleeding c (1) : to rid (as a nation or party) by a purge (2) : to get rid of <the leaders had been purged> <purge money-losing operations>

It is the second definition that I suggest applies in Mark 7:19, and was the reason the King James uses it instead of "cleansing all meats". So with that interpretation of purging, Jesus was indeed teaching that no food you eat can corrupt your heart, such that it can be blamed for causing you to sin, but He did not remove the prohibitions against eating unclean animals, they remain an abomination, unfit for human consumption, and and a hazard to your health to this day. And as with Daniel, obeying God's prohibition against eating the unclean has not only physical, but spiritual rewards as well.

1 Cor 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

Does Prayer Sanctify Unclean Animals?

1 Tim 4:1 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
1 Tim 4:2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
1 Tim 4:3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
1 Tim 4:4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:
1 Tim 4:5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Some will cite verses 4 and 5 as proof that anything you might eat is sanctified by prayer. However the context is found in verse 3: "... meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving ... ." Unclean animals were not created to be eaten by man, there is no way that God can ever sanctify something He explicitly condemns as an abomination (Lev. 11).

See Hogs And Other Hazards for more information.



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